Norma Smith held the first
washed plate out to Jack and said, "Well, don't just stand there,
Collie and Rosie should be here any minute now."
"I thought Collie said she
wasn't going?" asked Jack, wiping the plate dry, and then placing
it in the cupboard above the sink.
"That's what she said
originally," agreed Chris. "But mum and I ... Norma and I went
around to see her, and with Rosie's help we managed to make her
change her mind."
There was a knock at the front
door and Norma turned to ask, "Will you get that,
"Sure," said Chris standing and
walking up to the front door. He returned a few moments later
followed by Colleen and Rosemary Bennett his
"Let me give you a hand, Auntie
Norma," said Rosemary, taking up a tea towel to help with the
"Is anyone reading this?" asked
Colleen, picking up the newspaper from the kitchen
Jack looked back toward Chris
who said, "No, I've just finished with it."
"Would you girls like a cup of
tea before we go?" asked Norma.
"Yes, please," said Rosemary.
"Coffee if you've got it."
"Would you mind making it,
Collie?" asked Norma.
Colleen stopped in the doorway,
on her way to the lounge room, and sighed heavily.
"Never mind, sis," said
Rosemary. "I'll make it once we finish with the
"Thanks," muttered Colleen,
walking through to the lounge room. Sitting upon the sofa, she
turned the newspaper to the television page and called out,
"We'll be missing a great movie tonight, one I've always wanted
"You can watch it another time,
love," said Norma. "I'm sure Beth would be upset if you didn't
go to see her."
"Yeah, I suppose so," said
They finished the dishes, and
then Rosemary made the tea and coffee, and took a cup of tea in
"Just put it on the coffee
table," said Colleen, reading through the fashion
"We don't have a lot of time,"
said Norma. "So don't let it sit for too long."
"Most of these things are
straight out of a Bogart movie," said Colleen, referring to the
fashion pages. "Except they looked a lot better on Lauren
Bacall and Betty Grable, than on the stick figure women that they
call models these days."
"Did you hear what I said about
the tea?" asked Norma.
"Yes, Auntie Norma," said
Colleen. She picked up the cup, took a tiny sip of tea, and
then pantomimed receiving a third-degree burn.
"Blow on it if it's a little
hot," advised Norma. "Don't think you can make the one cup last
long enough to get out of going with us."
"Ready to go, Auntie Norma?"
asked Rosemary enthusiastically. "Uncle Jack and Chris are
still in the bathroom, shaving. And they talk about women
taking a long time to get ready to go out."
"Christ, there's no need to
sound so happy!" said Colleen. "It's not as though we're going
to the pictures or anything."
"We're going to see mum," said
Rosemary. "That's something to be happy about."
"Not necessarily," said
Colleen. "We don't know what she's like."
"Even so," begin
"Girls, girls," said Norma,
"don't argue about it, we're all going to see Beth in a little
while, and that's final." She stopped for a moment, and then
looked toward the hallway and, seeing there was still no sign of
Chris or Jack, she said, "While I've got you both together,
girls, there is something I wanted to talk to you about. Jack
asked me ... that is Jack and I both thought perhaps you might
like to move in with us for a while. We can shift Chris into
the lounge room, and put up your beds in Chris's
"Well, I'm living with the
Bernsteins, next door to our house," said Rosemary, "and I don't
"She doesn't want to move out,"
explained Colleen, "because she has a crush on their son,
"That isn't true!" insisted
"Then why do you follow him
around everywhere, like a little lost lamb?"
"I do not!"
"Do too," said Colleen. "It's
a wonder you didn't invite him along tonight. You could have
brought along some pop corn and Jaffas, and you could sit around
staring at her, and it'd be just like being at the
"You shut up!" shouted
Rosemary. "That's a nasty thing to say!"
"Yes, you should be ashamed of
yourself," said Norma.
"I'm sorry," said Colleen, but
it sounded like a bad actress reading from a cue card.
As Chris and Jack walked into
the lounge room, Norma, asked, "Then how would you like to move
in with us for a while, Collie?"
"No, thanks," said Colleen.
"I've recently started work as a typist, and I'm renting a room
in a house a couple of streets away from where I
"That's convenient," said
"Yeah," agreed Colleen. "And
the couple I'm boarding with have a young daughter for me to play
* * *
As the white robed matron led
them down the long hallway, Chris was reminded of all the
long-walk films he had seen on the television. The convicts
were always led down a seemingly endless corridor to the electric
chair, or perhaps the gas chamber.
When they finally stopped
before the last door at the end of the corridor, Chris, lost in
thought, almost collided into the back of Jack.
"I think it would be best if
you were to see her one or two at a time," said the grey-haired
matron. "When she first came here it was necessary to keep her
sedated most of the time. Gradually we were able to reduce the
amount of sedation in accord with an increased amount of therapy.
But even so, she is far from well, and too much excitement at
once could reverse all of the good work we have done, in one fell
The matron unlocked the door,
which she only opened a few centimetres.
"You can..." began Colleen.
At the same time Norma said:
"I think the girls should go
Colleen sighed in exasperation,
and gave Norma, a pleading look. Norma gave Colleen a return
glance, which seemed to say, "The sooner you go in there, the
sooner you can get it over with.
"Is there anywhere we can buy
magazines or something for her?" asked Norma.
"Well, she isn't able to read
yet," said the matron, "but I suppose you can take her some
chocolates, or ice-cream. There's a canteen in the foyer. If
you'd like to come with me, I'll show you the way," she said,
heading down the corridor at a brisk pace.
"Jack?" asked Norma.
"Why not?" asked Jack,
following Norma and the matron back down the hallway. "The
girls will be in there for some time yet, I suppose."
But Jack was wrong, it was only
a few minutes later that the two girls came out of the room,
Rosemary looking as though she was about to cry, and Colleen with
cheeks flushed red from anger.
"Is anything wrong?" asked
"Only everything," said
Colleen, as Rosemary began walking down the corridor. "Why
don't they lock her away in a dark vault somewhere, and throw
away the key?"
As Rosemary began to cry into
her hands, Colleen ran after her and put a comforting arm around
"Just tell your mum and dad
that we had to leave," said Colleen to Chris, as she led Rosemary
toward the visitors' elevators.
* * *
Colleen paid off the taxi and
led her sister to the front door of the house. Rosemary had
stopped crying but she still seemed upset by the visit to her
mother, "Are you sure you don't want me to come inside with you?"
"No, I'll be all right now,"
assured Rosemary. "It was stupid of me to allow myself to get
upset at what she said. She isn't herself,
"She's a bitch, the same as
always!" said Colleen, shocking her sister. "Some things never
change! It was stupid to even go there after what the Mayrons
told us she was like."
"I guess we just didn't ...
None of us could believe she was really that bad."
"Mum's always been worse than
anything you could imagine," said Colleen, "sane or crazy. No
matter what your wildest fantasies about the world's worst bitch
are, mum can always find a way to be worse."
"Oh Collie, that isn't
"I'm sorry," said Colleen
kissing her sister on the cheek. "Sometimes I forget you still
see the world through rose-coloured glasses."
"I do not," said
"Do too," said Colleen. She
laughed, then said, as Brian Bernstein opened the front door,
"I'll see you later."
"Are you all right?" asked
Brian, standing back to allow Rosemary to walk past him into the
house. "You look a little upset."
"It's my mother," she said
walking up to the centre of the hallway. She clicked a switch,
which illuminated a large aquarium, which was set into the wall
along one side of the corridor.
"I really don't know when
she'll ever be well enough to come home again."
Rosemary watched the fifteen or
so brightly coloured fish swimming around in the tank. There
was shale and a plastic castle upon the bottom of the
"It only goes back about
twenty-five centimetres," said Brian, referring to the fish tank.
"But there's a lot of height and length," He paused for a
moment and placed his hands upon Rosemary's shoulders. "You
know you're welcome to stay here for as long as you like. Mum
and dad always wanted daughter, after the four sons they've
raised, and you know I think of you as at least a
"At least?" asked Rosemary,
* * *
Rosemary lay beside Brian upon
"Did I hurt you?" he
"No, there was only a little
blood," said Rosemary.
Brian ran his right hand slowly
through Rosemary's hair. To Brian's surprise, Rosemary bent
down to cup his penis in one hand, and then lightly kiss
"What was that for?" he
"Just a little thank you," she
"How about one up here?" he
"Fine," said Rosemary,
straightening up to kiss Brian on the lips, then lightly prod her
tongue into his mouth,
"Brian! We're home!" called
out Ruth Bernstein from the front door.
"Oops," said Rosemary as they
both started scrambling for their clothing which lay about the
"Yes, mother, I'll be right
down!" called out Brian, pulling his trousers and underpants on
"There's no need for you to
come downstairs," called out Ruth Bernstein. "I just wondered
if Rosemary is home yet?"
"She's up here with me," called
back Brian, as Rosemary pulled on her frock over top of her
underwear, and Brian struggled into his T-shirt, which suddenly
seemed two sizes too small. "We were talking about how
Rosemary's mother is coming along."
"How is she, dear?" called out
"No better yet," called out
Rosemary, hurrying into her pantyhose, and brushing down her
frock with her hands to try to brush away any creases.
"Oh, well, in that case I won't
come up there," said Ruth. Brian and Rosemary, both slipping on
their shoes, stopped to exchange glances. "You're probably
pretty upsets and I know you prefer Brian to me at a time like
Brian and Rosemary exchanged
looks again, then Brian whispered, "I think she meant my
* * *
Norma kissed Chris upon the
cheek, and then asked, "How is Rosie getting on with the
"Great, from what I can see.
There's already talk of Rosie becoming converted to the true
faith, so she and Brian can tie the knot in a couple of years'
"Which true faith is that?"
"How many are there?" asked
"It depends upon which one you
follow," said Norma. "The Christian true faith, the Moslem true
faith, the Jewish true faith, the Zen Buddhist true faith, and on
"Well, it's the Jewish true
faith in this case," said Chris.
"I hope she knows what she's
getting herself into," said Norma. "Religion can be a funny
business at times; swapping religions can cause all sorts of
"I don't think religion means
very much to Rosie," said Chris. "She's never been one of the
born-again, so I guess it's all the same to here whether she's a
Sunday morning Christian, or a Saturday morning Jew."
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